Paul (originally Pál) Hermann was born on 27 March 1902 in Budapest. His non-practising Jewish family lived in a well-to-do district in Buda. We know little about Paul’s early musical education. We do know that from 1915 to 1922 he was a student at the Franz Liszt Academy, where he was friends with the violinist Zoltán Székely, the pianist Géza Frid and their tutors Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. Hermann studied cello with Adolf Schiffer and composition with Léo Weiner.
One spring afternoon in 1918 Paul Hermann – as yet still a student – sat on the same tram home as Zoltán Kodály. The cellist was carrying the score of Székely's String Trio, as the young friends often tried out each other’s works and discussed them. Kodály must have been impressed because shortly afterwards he invited both young men to his house and they became his students. In 1920 Hermann played Kodály's Sonata for solo cello in a private concert at Arnold Schönberg’s house in Vienna. Hermann and Székely attracted international attention with Kodály's Duet for Violin and Cello.
On completing his studies Hermann left the strongly anti-semitic Hungary and settled in Berlin to study with Hugo Becker at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, a hotbed of the avant-garde. Meanwhile Székely and Hermann regularly performed together all over Europe. Hermann’s Duet for violin and cello Op 13 was premiered in the Wigmore Hall in London in March 1930. On 29 September 1931 Hermann married a Dutch girl, Ada Weevers, and the pair settled in Berlin. When Hitler came to power in 1933, the young couple decided to live in the Netherlands. Their lives took a tragic turn, as Ada died in October of that year. Hermann moved, first to Brussels and then to Paris, where he promoted the music of young Dutch composers. On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 contact with his in-laws in the Netherlands became virtually impossible.
As a Hungarian living in France, Paul Hermann signed up with the French 25th Infantry Regiment of Foreign Volunteers, where he was a member of the music corps. At the German invasion, Hermann went into hiding in the south of France with relatives of his Dutch in-laws. Under a false name, de Cotigny, he thought he was reasonably safe in Toulouse, but in a big street razzia in April 1944 he was arrested and transported to Drancy. From there he was sent to Auschwitz and then on to Lithuania. Of the more than 800 so-called 'Arbeitsjuden' (labour Jews) very few returned. Of Paul Hermann all trace was lost.
Grand Duo 1929-30 violin and cello
String Trio 1921 violin, viola and cello
Toccata 1936 piano
Three Songs 1934-39 voice and piano, on texts by Valéry and Rimbaud